Rochester Art Center

Rochester Art Center Faces Uncertain Future

Matt McKinney reports in the Minnesota StarTribune that the Rochester Art Center in Rochester, Minnesota, is facing financial turmoil and high employee turnover. Thirteen years ago, the center relocated to a new $8 million building overlooking the South Fork Zumbro River, though recent documents reveal that the institution’s once-bright future is in question. Its most recent tax return, filed seven months late, showed an operating deficit of $279,000 for 2015. Since then, ten of the center’s eleven full-time employees have quit or were fired, supposedly a result of a “toxic work environment” that former employees say was created by director Megan Johnston.

Johnston resigned last January, just days before the center filed its overdue 2015 audit. She said in a recent interview that she was unaware of the size of the center’s debt when she took over, calling the pressure of the finances “overwhelming.” She was hired in October 2015 and from the start, she said, she was facing the debt, adding that there were “a dozen or more initiatives in 2016” that tried to turn the situation around. The center typically runs a deficit, but 2015’s was larger than the average deficit reported since 2009, the earliest year that tax returns were available. The institution’s board and management have yet to provide details beyond the tax return, including how it spent some $570,000 of public money in 2014 and 2015. City funding accounts for roughly a third of the center’s annual revenue.

Interim director Lee Koch said that a decision about the center’s future will not be made until a full review of its finances is complete. Koch noted that those details should be released at the center’s annual meeting in May.